Working conditions in Manchester’s textile manufacturing sector

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by Lucy Brill

In 2017, the international women workers’ organisation, Homeworkers’ Worldwide (HWW), more used to mapping the garment industry in countries as far away as India, Chile and China, completed a scoping study on working conditions within the textile and garment manufacturing sector within Greater Manchester (GM). Our report is available on the Homeworkers Worldwide website here.

Our outreach project contacted over sixty local organisations, collating anecdotal information about workers in the sector, which eventually led to interviews with two retailers, six manufacturers and five workers. We also built up a database of information about over a hundred companies within GM.

Initial interviews found evidence that confirmed that the low wage rates (around £4/hour) and double accounting systems found by Professor Hammer in Leicester in 2015 were also present in some factories in Greater Manchester:

They give us payslips but they only show 16 hours/week, at £7.50/hour, whereas in fact we’re doing many more hours than that .. usually we do 30 hours/week… and we’re paid around £500/month.

Small manufacturers also highlighted the challenges they faced, due to large retailers’ unfair purchasing practices, which included driving down prices to levels where it was impossible for them to pay their workers properly and leaving invoices unpaid for several months at a time.

In Bangladesh or China you have to pay 30% in advance, and then pay everything to release the goods … whereas here the law is so weak, they all expect 60 or 90 day terms ..

the retailers are very dishonest ..  they’re all billionaires, yet they won’t pay invoices for months ..

E-tailer X .. is really hard to work with, constantly driving down the prices ..

This was intended to be an initial study, that we hoped would lead to a larger action research project. Unfortunately  we were not able to extend the scoping study so it is not possible to say how prevalent these issues are within the UK industry.

The report highlights the importance of further research to enable workers voices to be heard in the debate to improve working conditions within UK manufacturing, and concludes with some provisional policy recommendations.

These include the importance of accessible employment rights advice backed up by effective enforcement services that operate independently of immigration controls, to support workers who take action to claim those rights. Large retailers particularly those who value the flexibility and fast turnaround that local manufacturers can provide, need to recognise their responsibilities, and support their much smaller UK based suppliers to provide decent working conditions for workers making and packing their clothes now, and also to invest in a sustainable future for the UK industry.

Small suppliers need retailers to help them manage the risks involved in the fashion business, so they do not pass these onto their workers. Employers highlighted issues such as prompt payment terms, as well as larger or more consistent orders, which would reduce their overheads and enable them to improve working conditions within their factories. National government should also consider introducing joint liability for the most serious labour rights abuses, to hold the often much larger retailers accountable for working conditions in their supply chains

Homeworkers world wide article Lucy Brill photo for GM Poverty ActionHWW would be very keen to collaborate with others to find ways to extend this work, as was originally planned when we started on the work in 2017. Please contact Lucy Brill if you have any proposals to take this forward.


Lucy Brill
Homeworkers Worldwide Co-ordinator


i3oz9sWorking conditions in Manchester’s textile manufacturing sector
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Increasing access to health support in Salford

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Outreach and Engagement Approaches
by Angela Eden, Health Improvement Manager

Salford Health Improvement Service is a frontline, neighbourhood based health and wellbeing service which delivers a broad range of community initiatives to help people make behaviour changes. Our core areas of work most often cover areas such as smoking, weight support, healthy eating, physical activity and mental health. However, more recently the service has worked closely with our partner services within the City Council to develop a sustained programme of outreach and engagement work to help to tackle poverty directly within Salford’s most socio-economically deprived communities. There have been two key campaigns over the preceding 12 months, one called Better Off (focused on increasing access to anti-poverty services within the most socio-economically deprived communities), and one focussed on increasing uptake of the Pension Credit benefit.

There are 30 frontline staff with the Health Improvement Service who have strong networks and trusted relationships within the local communities in which they work. These staff have a history of successfully delivering campaigns and brief interventions. This meant that the service was ideally placed to get the key messages out to local residents to help them to make small, but often significant changes to their financial and economic situation.

Better Off
‘Better Off Salford’ Health Bus campaign, was delivered over eight dates, with the health bus visiting two venues per date. This was delivered alongside our partners in Welfare Rights and Debt Advice and Housing. During this time over 150 conversations took place with residents within their own community about the topics of Emergency Financial Support, Benefits Advice, Managing Debt, Health and Wellbeing and Housing. During the campaign 120 referrals were made to other Anti-Poverty services.

Below is some feedback from staff involved in the delivery of the campaign:

‘I have had the bailiffs put on hold and agreed an affordable repayment plan’ (Debt Adviser)

‘I helped him apply for council tax reduction online – now in payment and applied to the council tax bill set up for him and his wife – pointed him to apply online for a discretionary housing payment. Also gave advice for Salford Home Search, as he wanted a social housing property and he also spoke with Housing Options who were on the bus, he spoke to the Credit Union lady who also runs a job club about applying for jobs online and with Universal Credit’ (Claims Management Officer)

‘I carried out a check the next day and identified entitlement to Employment Support allowance of £73.10 per week and Tax Credits (husband works) of £89 per week. Overall she will be £162 better off each week as a result of the visit to the bus’ ( Welfare Rights Officer)

‘We had a chap with very significant mental health issues who had been offered a flat but as the landlord could not contact him the application had been cancelled. The customer was unaware of all this until he attended the bus and after some emails we agreed to reinstate his application due to the issues he currently faces. This man was very agitated when he first presented to the bus and as we managed to resolve this situation he left the bus a much happier man. He in fact liked all the staff so much he stayed with us the whole afternoon and engaged with other customers. If the bus had not been there then he would not have known his home search situation. We managed to resolve this and this made him much happier with SCC services’ (Supported Tenancy Officer)

Pension Credit
There are almost 6,000 individuals in Salford who are not claiming Pension Credit, but are entitled to it. Eligibility for this benefit opens up opportunities for other areas of financial support. It is estimated that there is as much as £12 million unclaimed Pension Credit in the city. Current changes to the Welfare system nationally will mean that if people don’t claim soon then they may miss out permanently, so there was some urgency to this work.

The Health Improvement Service worked in collaboration with our Welfare Rights and Debt Advice service, our Council Tax Benefits team and DWP to deliver an outreach and engagement campaign to encourage take up of the Pension Credit benefit by residents who may be missing out. The campaign focussed on busting myths about eligibility and how simple it is to make a claim. Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Services provided training and resources to the Health Improvement Staff to ensure they were confident in supporting residents to apply for Pension Credit.

Health: Increasing Access to Support in Salford – Outreach and Engagement Approaches by Angela Eden for GM Poverty Action

Angela Eden

Over 1000 conversations took place with individuals to take up Pension Credit during April and May 2019 in a range of community venues, and on the Health Improvement Bus. Targeted engagement took place with the Muslim and Jewish communities, where uptake of Pension Credit is currently even lower than the Salford average.

For more information please contact  Angela Eden


i3oz9sIncreasing access to health support in Salford
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Miles Platting Community Grocer

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Food clubs go by many names such as food pantries, social supermarkets and community grocers. What they have in common is a membership scheme by which people pay a small amount and are able to choose from a wide range of foods of a much greater value. You can read more about them, and other forms of community food retail, in Food Power’s briefing. The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan calls for more food clubs to be established across Greater Manchester, and we are pleased to share success stories and good practice such as the Miles Platting Community Grocer. 

“I think the stigma around people going to a community grocer is still there. In fact, I know it is and a lot of people wouldn’t go. I’ve told everybody about this place and how amazing it is. When you walk through the door no one stares at you; it’s welcoming and friendly.” says member Debbie

Miles Platting Community Grocer volunteers Bridget and Dot for GM Poverty Action

Community Grocer volunteers Bridget and Dot

The Community Grocer has taken root in Miles Platting since it opened in 2017 with investment from Adactus Housing, with a team of local dedicated local residents who wanted to help others, improve themselves and make Miles Platting a better place to live. The grocer is more than just a shop, it has empowered residents to get involved in other activities such as cooking courses with a focus on healthy eating, encouraging people to get creative and to experiment with food. It’s a place that brings the community together, where people can catch up over a cup of tea or get stuck in and volunteer. It also has its own Savers group set up and run by the Community Grocer volunteers who help each other to save money.

“Miles Platting Community Grocer was set up not only to address food poverty, but to help people make friends, connect people into activities, training, volunteering and partner services.” Rich Browning, Chief Executive, Healthy Me Healthy Communities

Miles Platting Community Grocer: Niall for GM Poverty Action


“I started coming on one particular week when I was really strapped for cash for buying food. The bills had come in and my wage was low because I’d been off sick. So, I went and signed up as a member and did my shop. Just that little bit gets you through that week. I’ve been coming here for three months and from my weekly trip I have a fully stocked cupboard of essentials, whether that be pasta, rice, beans, tins of soup and veg which you can always make something of.  You always get a potato and fresh fruit which is good and it’s healthy.” Niall

Miles Platting has had a large amount of change over the last few years, it has seen new residents come into the area, new houses being built, but also a change in local amenities. The Community Grocer provides an essential space for the community to meet, bringing people together and giving local people an opportunity to access projects, training and advice. The grocer has been supported by the Adactus Housing Association enabling the volunteers to provide this essential community-run project.

Miles Platting Community Grocer: Eric for GM Poverty Action


“I enjoyed the opportunity to participate, via the social group created by our Community Grocers. It was a good way to pool experiences and learn about aspects of our area, from the last days of its industrial past up to the rapidly changing present. Mapping the results means that this history has been formally recorded for current and future interest, rather than being lost.” Eric

The Community Grocers, part of Healthy Me Healthy Communities working in partnership with neighbourhood groups, residents and services, are a network of food projects across Manchester improving access to healthy food options, volunteering, training and improving access to existing services. The grocers also provide opportunities for local residents to get involved in different community projects.  Funded by The Lottery and with investment from MHCC and GMMH Trust, they are soon to open a new community food centre and new food projects.

Healthy me Healthy Communities logo for GM Poverty ActionFor more information please visit Healthy Me Healthy Communities website

i3oz9sMiles Platting Community Grocer
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VCSE Policy Position Paper

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The VCSE Devolution Reference Group with support from colleagues at GMCA have developed a VCSE Policy Position Paper which sets out a long term ambition for the VCSE sector in GM.

Please share your views on the draft Paper. Does it describe a way forward that is meaningful for all VCSE organisations?  The paper builds on the Accord with Mayor of Greater Manchester and GM Combined Authority (GMCA), and the Memorandum of Understanding with the GM Health and Social Care Partnership.

It is intended to be really ambitious, describing a future role equal to those of the state and business. It sets out what our sector could bring over the next 25 years to Greater Manchester people and communities, and what would need to be done to enable it, including investment.

It isn’t an action plan, but after the Policy Paper is finalised in November an ‘implementation and transformation plan’ will be developed over the following year in each of the 10 localities as well as for Greater Manchester. The plans will vary, but will all be co-designed with relevant partners within the broad framework set out in this Paper.

Please respond to the online survey by September 30th 2019.


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The Northern Powerhouse: 5 years in

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by Marcus Johns, IPPR

The North of England is rising up the list of priorities for both the government and opposition. Recently, we saw 33 regional newspapers launch the #PowerUpTheNorth campaign, while both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson have delivered major speeches about the North, in the North.

June saw the fifth anniversary of the Northern Powerhouse Agenda. But looking back, the reality has fallen a long way short of the initial rhetoric. The impact of austerity has been severe and many northerners have suffered as a result – IPPR North analysis found the North saw a £3.6 billion public spending cut from 2009/10 to  2017/18, while spending actually rose by £4.7 billion in the South East and South West.

These cuts, and wider changes to the economy over the period, mean that the number of jobs paying less than the Real Living Wage rose by 150,000, and the number of northern children living in poverty rose by 200,000.

For those of us living in the North, its many strengths are clear: from universities to renewable energy assets on its coasts. Most of all it is clear in the talents, hard work and creativity of its people.

But Westminster is still holding us back and life is getting worse for too many people as a result. The next phase of the Northern Powerhouse must address this.

And that’s why some of the changes that might appear superficial could be the most important in the long term.

Five new metro mayors governing 47 per cent of the North’s population have made their presence felt. Greater Manchester’s Mayor has undoubtedly been a loud voice calling for change and has made it impossible for central government to ignore the region. Transport for the North has brought forward a plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail and more – totalling £70 billion of investment.

These changes cannot make up for austerity and shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the reality of life for many northerners. But the North must seize the opportunities within its grasp, because it cannot afford to wait indefinitely for an alternative government, and austerity could be even more difficult to weather without further devolution.

This agenda remains an important vision of what the North could be; a positive alternative to the ‘North-South divide’ narrative that implicitly writes off the North’s future.  That is why we think the North’s leaders should improve the Northern Powerhouse agenda, rather than cast it aside in favour of some yet-to-be-formulated alternative.

We have already seen the green shoots of this agenda. Osborne’s initial vision was narrowly focused on connecting the cities of Manchester and Leeds to drive productivity. Now — in the policies of Northern leaders and even in the rhetoric of the new Prime Minister —  the focus has shifted: it is starting to encompass northern towns alongside its cities; it is focusing on social infrastructure, not just faster trains; and it is prioritising northerners’ quality of life and work. In practice, the new Mayors have used their limited powers broadly, helping homeless people, developing employment charters and providing discounted transport for young people.

Recently in Manchester, the new Prime Minister’s rhetoric hinted at a shift in focus too. He pointed to inequality between places that are economically successful, and those a ‘few miles away’ where young people feel ‘hopelessness’. There are clear parallels to draw with Theresa May’s infamous ‘burning injustices’ speech. Yet, little action emanated from May’s rhetoric and we await to see what really emanates this time. Given recent experience, northern people are entitled to a healthy scepticism.

If the new Prime Minister is sincere, his first move should end local government austerity. He should then deliver on the devolution he has promised and ensure that all local authorities receive the funding they need to meet the needs of their residents so that the North will never again be forced to deliver Westminster’s austerity.

Marcus Johns article for GM Poverty Action

Marcus Johns, IPPR North

For the northern children growing up in poverty – their futures blighted by austerity – and for all northerners being held back by Westminster’s failures, it is time to act. It is time for the North to be properly resourced so that our leaders can make policy accountable to its people: a Northern Powerhouse that is truly of the North, for the North and by the North.


i3oz9sThe Northern Powerhouse: 5 years in
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Poverty and Inequality

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By Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

Photo of Debbie Abrahams for Oldham Fairness Commission article for GM Poverty Action

Debbie Abrahams MP

In May, on the 49th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Equality Trust published analysis of the CEO pay ratios, gender pay gaps and gender bonus gaps in FTSE 100 companies revealing the ongoing pay inequality across different sectors[1]. It followed on from the ONS reporting in February of the increase in income inequalities in 2018 as measured by the Gini coefficient (it increased from 31.4 to 32.5).  The average income of the poorest fifth of the population after inflation contracted by 1.6% in the last financial year, while the average income of the richest fifth rose by 4.7%.[2] And ‘Fat Cat Friday’ in January exposed that top executives were earning 133 times more than their average worker. The ratio was 47 in 1998.[3]

Last year’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission report showed that the poorest tenth of households will on average lose about 10% of their income by 2022 – equivalent to £1 in every £8 of net income[4]. This reflects other distributional analyses, for example from the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Much is also known about inequalities in wealth: the richest 1,000 people in the UK have wealth estimated at £724bn, greater than the wealth of the poorest 40% at £567 billion[5]. This privileged 1,000 saw their income increase by £66bn in one year alone, and £255bn over the last 5 years.

The impact of these inequalities on life expectancy, which is now stalling after decades of growth, has not gone unnoticed[6]. For women, the gap is the largest since the 1920s. For older women life expectancy is actually reversing. The data also indicates that deprived areas, where people on low incomes are most likely to live, also have lower life expectancy rates. The analysis shows that whilst the USA and some European countries are seeing this life expectancy slow down, it is worst in the UK. Interestingly, this doesn’t appear to be a developed country phenomenon as Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have all seen continuing increases in life expectancy.

This stalling in life expectancy has been picked up the actuaries. PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates that ‘[a] sharp slowdown in the improvement to life expectancy could wipe £310bn from the pension deficits of thousands of UK companies with final salary schemes’, equivalent to a 15% reduction.[7]

There is also a persistent north–south divide in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, with, for example, people residing in southern regions of England on average living longer and with fewer years in poor health than those living further north. For example, in 2015–17, life expectancy at birth for men was lowest in Blackpool and highest in Hart in Hampshire, with a difference of about nine years. For women, life expectancy was again lowest in Blackpool and highest in East Dorset, with a difference of about six years. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all had lower life expectancies than England.[8]

And the poverty that more and more of our children are growing up in is having a devastating effect on them with an increase in child mortality and decline in children’s health as a direct result.[9]

None of this is new. Seminal works such as the Health Divide[10] back in 1987 first highlighted this. The Spirit Level[11] ten years ago showed that in societies and communities where the gaps between the rich and poor are narrow, life expectancy, educational attainment, social mobility, trust and more, increases.  In addition, more equal societies see economic benefits as described by the International Monetary Fund[12]. Fairer, more equal societies benefit everyone.

Wilkinson’s and Pickett’s most recent work, The Inner Level[13], examined how more equal societies reduce stress and improve everyone’s wellbeing, unpicking the evidence of the pathophysiological pathways and mechanisms through which inequalities act to affect our health and wellbeing, physical, mental, emotional and more.

Our health and longevity depend on how and where we are able to live, which in turn depends on our financial means. But on top of this, there is an independent and universal effect that reflects our positions in a hierarchy: our ‘class’, status and relative power[14].

But I believe it is the impacts of these inequalities in power that are worthy of greater exploration and analysis. For example, political power includes the states ‘power to’ do many things on behalf of the general population, but given the falling turnout at elections do our citizens feel this political power vested in our politicians is more about ‘power over’ rather than ‘power with’? How can our political and electoral systems ensure more effective involvement of citizens in political life so that the state is bound to the ‘common good’?

There’s more to be done on inequalities in everyday or practical power too. The powerlessness people experience on a daily basis is immense: struggling to access services to get housing repairs done; being on a zero hours contract and not knowing from one week to the next how many hours you may be working and what your income will be; having your social security claim refused or delayed in a way that dehumanises the claimant; or, being in pain and unable to get the timely treatment you need from the doctor. How much control we feel we have over our lives, our self-efficacy or personal power can in turn have an immense impact on our emotional and physical health as we know from, for example, the Whitehall Studies[15].

I became a politician to tackle these inequalities. I believe we need action at all levels to address them. At a national level, I am hopeful that the recently launched Deaton Inquiry into inequalities will look at the power inequalities I have described, including their inter-relationship between each other. Similarly, the work of the APPG for Health in All Policies which I chair, is currently examining the health impacts of the 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act, particularly on children and disabled people.

At a Greater Manchester level, I am delighted that the GM Mayor, Andy Burnham, will soon be launching a GM Fairness Commission. And in Oldham, as we review the progress from the Oldham Fairness Commission, we will be also looking at how we can work differently across all sectors, tackling the inequalities in practical power too many of our citizens experience.











[10] Whitehead, M, (1988) The Health Divide. Pelican Books

[11] Wilkinson, R, Pickett, K, (2009) The Spirit Level. Allen Lane/Penguin


[13] Wilkinson, R, Pickett, K, (2018) The Inner Level. Allen Lane/Penguin



i3oz9sPoverty and Inequality
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NRPF and the Lalley Centre

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No Recourse to Public Funds – the Lalley Centre experience

by Julia Coultan, Community Services Manager, Caritas Salford

Lalley Centre logo for NRPF article for GM Poverty ActionThe Lalley Centre, one of the community projects of the charity Caritas Diocese of Salford, helps people from across North Manchester who are struggling to feed their families and to make ends meet. We provide food support, help and advice to many people . One of the groups of people who come to us for help are those directly affected by the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) legislation, which is not very well known. We wanted to highlight the situation that people subject to NRPF find themselves in, and how hard it is for them to support themselves and their families.

NRPF status was introduced via the 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act, and further widened in 2012. People with NRPF status are not allowed to claim benefits or to seek work. This status can last for up to 10 years, while people negotiate the costly and lengthy immigration processes. Many of these people are families with children, and these children sometimes have British citizenship, but are not given access to basic support such as benefits and free school meals like other children in their position receive. They lose out on these vital lifelines to prevent people falling into poverty, simply due to the NRPF status of their parents.

Some research recently published by The Unity Project, which is based in London and supports people with NRPF status, found that nationally, the NRFP policy disproportionately affects women, and people from BME communities. Our experience in North Manchester certainly bears this out. In 2018/19 – 22% of our Lalley Centre food bank members (36 out of 164 members) had NRPF status.

So far in 2019/20, 16% of our Lalley Centre food bank members had NRPF status. These family groupings consist of 17 women, 7 men, and 35 children. 10 of these families are female single parent households.

All the families are from BME communities.

Julia Coulton, NRPF article for GM Poverty Action

Julia Coulton

The Home Office has recently agreed to review its policy regarding NRPF, but in the meantime its consequences are that children are living in poverty and unable to access the basics like a hot meal and adequate clothing.

You can read the full Unity Project report, “Access Denied: The cost of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy” here

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Unlimited Potential: Living Wage Champion Awards

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Unlimited Potential wins ‘Against All Odds industry’ award for dedication to real Living Wage

At the national Living Wage Champion Awards, Salford-based Unlimited Potential was recognised for its role in leading the way and demonstrating that not only is paying the Living Wage possible in low-paid industries but that by doing business differently, they can change the industry for the better.

Awarded the ‘Against All Odds Industry’ Champion Award for its dedication to spreading the real Living Wage in health and care in Salford, Unlimited Potential  is also tackling the challenge of outsourced and sub-contracted services by promoting the real Living Wage within procurement.  This is the second national Living Wage Champion award that Unlimited Potential has received, having won the Industry Leadership Award in 2018.

Unlimited Potential 2019 LW award for GM Poverty Action

Robert Stephenson-Padron (Penrose Care), Chris Dabbs, Marcia Powell, (Unlimited Potential) Martin Lewis (

Chris Dabbs, Chief Executive, said: “We are very proud to have been given this award and to pay the real Living Wage. Paying the real Living Wage is simply the right thing to do and we really hope that other local employers follow our lead. We are aiming to spread the real Living Wage in health and care across Greater Manchester.”

The real Living Wage is currently £9.00 per hour across the UK (£10.55 in London). Unlike the government’s ‘National Living Wage’ it is independently calculated based on the cost of living. There are over 5,400 Living Wage employers in the UK including 27 in Salford, of whom 11 are in health and care.

“We are pleased that almost every main health and care organisation in Salford is an accredited Living Wage employer” continued Chris. “We were especially pleased that Aspire, a social care provider in Salford, also won a Living Wage Champion Award this year for going Beyond the Living Wage.”

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “The last year has been particularly successful for the Living Wage Foundation as we’ve seen through the 5,000th Living Wage accreditation. Our awards are an opportunity to recognise the fantastic businesses who continue to recognise the importance of a wage that truly covers the cost of living, and the value this provides for workers and their families, as well as businesses.”

For more information about Unlimited Potential please visit their website

In total there were five Living Wage Champions from Greater Manchester – an exceptionally strong showing from our city region. Congratulations from GMPA and the GM Living Wage Campaign to our partners Trafford Housing Trust, GM Citizens, Facilicom, Unlimited Potential, and Aspire.


i3oz9sUnlimited Potential: Living Wage Champion Awards
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Food Ladders

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A multi-scaled approach to everyday food security and community resilience
by Dr Megan Blake, University of Sheffield

Dr. Megan Blake is a member of Reference Group for GMPA’s Food Poverty Alliance. The Alliance  recommends place-based approaches to tackling food poverty, to complement city-regional and national action, and the following approach can be used to frame and inform those localised approaches.

Finding innovative interventions for building food secure communities

Food Ladders is a novel, evidenced-based approach for creating household and community resilience by building on the capacity of food to bring people together. Food Ladders is not like existing household food insecurity approaches that focus on the lack of good food within households that then feed that gap. Instead, Food Ladders activates food and its related practices to reduce local vulnerability to food insecurity and its knock-on effects.

Specifically, Food Ladders advocates for:
– Mobilising the more than nutrient, calorie and commercial aspects of food, such as its capacity to bring people together to foster shared understanding and collaboration;
– Creating safe and inclusive spaces for experimentation and interaction with food;
– Using a positive language of empowerment around food;
– Building place-specific levels of support that enable the recognition and enhancement of locally based skills and assets to create transformations in communities.

What is the Food Ladders approach?

Food Ladders are community scale interventions aimed at building local level resilience in the face of food insecurity. The approach was developed for low-income communities to address the wider effects that poverty has on health, wellbeing, and community cohesion. However, all communities can benefit from Food Ladders. The approach is not intended to replace national level campaigns, but instead complements those campaigns and may even foster activism. Food Ladders works with the specific characteristics of places to enable three levels of intervention These include:

Catching.  This first rung provides a starting point for those who are in crisis.  Such interventions might include emergency food aid, mental health support, access to social services, etc. Catching enables the ability to cope with a shock, whether that be the loss of a job, an unexpected large payment, debt, longer-term illness or relationship breakdown.

Capacity building to enable change.  This second rung supports those not currently in crisis, but who may be struggling to afford and/or access good food.  Activities include training programmes, shared cooking and eating activities, food pantries, children’s holiday clubs, and voucher schemes. Done in a manner that celebrates difference and is not stigmatising, activities provide residents with accessible choices that relieve the stresses that co-exist with low-incomes, expand skills, and enable the recognition of personal and local assets. These interventions connect people together by creating networks of trust and reciprocity through shared activity around food. This sort of intervention enables people and communities to be more adaptable by expanding what they can bring to the table to make change.

Self-organised community change.  This third rung supports communities to realise goals through self-organised projects that capitalise on what is good in communities. Projects meet community needs as residents identify them. Examples include developing a social enterprise based on community cooking knowledge that provides employment, community story-telling that leads to activism, cooperative food growing and food procurement that increases the local availability of good food, regular social cooking and eating activities to overcome loneliness, cross social divides and create intergenerational knowledge transfer.

What can Local Authorities, Community Organisations, Food Alliances and others do to support local Food Ladders?

There is a lot that these different types of organisations can do to support and build Food Ladders, including undertaking mapping, reflective reviews and evaluations of existing practices. There is a longer description of Food Ladders with pointers for how different types of organisations can start building food ladders in their area.

The research behind the Food Ladders approach:

Megan Blake Food article for GM Poverty Action

Megan Blake

Food Ladders was developed through a series of interdisciplinary research projects funded by the ESRC, MRC, and The N8 AgriFood Programme, involving local authorities, food industry actors, national charities and community organisations across the UK, which enabled a better understanding of what is working in communities and where different levels of resources and challenges are situated. A special mention goes to Gary Stott (Community Shop and Incredible Edible) and Samantha Siddall (ECO), Rupert Suckling (Doncaster Metropolitan Council), and the teams at Greater Manchester Poverty Action and FareShareUK.

If you would like to know more about Food Ladders please contact: Dr. Megan Blake, or Twitter: @GeoFoodieOrg. Megan is also an organiser of the Just Food Futures conference in July.



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A society divided by poverty

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By Ivan Lewis MP

The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated recently,

“I reject the idea that there are vast numbers of people facing dire poverty in this country. I don’t accept the UN rapporteur’s report at all. I think that’s a nonsense. Look around you; that’s not what we see in this country.”

In the context of poverty, we sadly do not live in one society, one nation or even one city region, we are deeply divided. A society where the world of work and social networks increasingly means people on different levels of income have little or no contact. This is socially regressive.

One of the great virtues of the best Children’s Centres are that they bring together parents of all social classes. This is mutually beneficial for the children but also for adult relationships and community cohesion. However, the cuts to early years provision and the absence of a meaningful child poverty strategy undermine any efforts to break the cycle of Intergenerational poverty which blights too many families.

The impact of austerity has fallen disproportionately on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Women, ethnic minorities, children, single parents, asylum seekers and people with disabilities have suffered the most.

Since 2010, the Government has made more than £30billion in cuts to welfare, housing and social payments. Social and living standards have not improved and for too many have worsened since the global economic crash of 2008.

Every day we see the impact of the breakdown of much of our social fabric in the form of people sleeping rough on our streets. It is hard to celebrate the growth exemplified by the cranes in the skies of our major cities when down below too many people are huddled in doorways and under archways seeking shelter and sanctuary.

The Child Poverty Action Group has stated that an additional 300,000 children will be living in poverty by the time universal credit has been fully implemented in 2023-2024. The two-child policy is not compatible with our national commitment towards children. We owe a duty of care to all children, not just the first two, to enable families to foster healthy environments in which they can flourish.

Our social security system is intended to function as a safety net to support and assist people through situations such as low-pay, sickness, long term disability and unemployment. Instead, too often it has become a source of despair and misery with the most vulnerable in society beholden to the seemingly arbitrary rules which dictate how much universal credit one is entitled too.

A new Prime Minister will rightly be expected to resolve the Brexit stalemate. But alongside this, he or she must recognise the economic and social imperative to reduce levels of poverty which help to fuel (division) in our fractured society. The stark division in our country between Remainers and Leavers is corrosive. But so are levels of poverty which consign too many of our fellow citizens to poor life chances and a poor quality of life. It is a human tragedy for those trapped in this cycle of despair, but it is also undermining our economy in a world where human capital is at a premium.

This is in our country, all around us, and it isn’t right.

i3oz9sA society divided by poverty
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